There is a lot that can be said about traveling on the cheap, even with its drawbacks. Hostels are a great way to keep your expenses low. Most offer single, double and dorm rooms with respective rates. AirBnb properties have grown in the cities, but staying in private rooms and hotels removes the social element if you are traveling alone. At hostels you will meet amazing people who will give you advice on places to visit and may even end up being a travel companion and friend for life.
In Colombia most of the people I encountered were using TripAdvisor, like me, or Booking.com. You can find plenty of nice places to stay for under $40USD a night if you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers. Most hostels provide a secure locker, so bring a little lock. If you’re bad with keys, get one with a keycode. Before I booked my flights, I researched a ton of places that I wanted to visit for culture or experience of the natural world. I never made it to half of them, but I found others based on recommendations from fellow travelers. I confirmed my first hostel online from home so I had an immediate destination when I got off the plane. NOTE: When booking online, the confirmation is usually just to reserve the room and you pay upon arrival. From there I booked as I went based on how many nights I decided to stay, new friends’ schedules, and public transportation schedules. Taking a trip organically, planning as you go is very liberating. It allows you more opportunities to be spontaneous. Sometimes there isn’t the time to do so, and some people aren’t comfortable with not knowing what tomorrow will bring. I urge you to challenge yourself in this realm.
If you’re working with a super-tight budget but have plenty of time to spend abroad, look into work-trade opportunities at hostels and businesses. Most hostels need bilingual help at reception, or assistance with other daily chores. Find the places you are most interested in visiting, scope websites of hostels in that area, then write to them in advance seeking work-trade opportunities. Most places look for a minimum two week to month commitment. The challenging part is often times they don’t schedule more than 2 weeks out and will only hire from an in person meeting. So, you could always book a room at your destination, pay for a few nights and ask around for places looking for volunteers. If you’re not sure where you want to go, check out Workaway.info for opportunities that suit your interests and skill sets.